The researchers found that although doctors take prescribing seriously, improvements need to be made in order to lower the rate of prescription errors.
The study, which underlines several risk factors in prescribing, is welcomed by the UK-wide medical defense organization MDDUS.
Dr. John Holden, MDDUS medical adviser explains:
"This study underlines the fact that, while prescribing errors are rare, they can have serious consequences for patient care. MDDUS supports the GMC's move to improve prescribing standards and we hope this study will alert doctors to the prescribing pitfalls and encourage them to take extra care."
MDDUS has dealt with a number of cases where doctors have faced fitness to practice proceedings regarding prescribing errors, many of which could have been easily avoided. In one case a doctor prescribed methotrexate daily instead of weekly to an arthritis patient who became seriously unwell and required hospital treatment.
Other complaints relate to drugs that require close monitoring such as anti-depressants being issued as repeat prescriptions without sufficient patient follow-up and monitoring.
These errors could have been avoided if robust prescription systems had been in place to monitor patients and ensure dosage information is accurate.
The researchers of the study set out to determine what types of errors occur, how common they are, and how to prevent them. Results from the study indicated that in every 20 prescriptions 1 error occurred, with 1 in 550 associated with a sever error.
In addition they found that:
- 30% of errors were due to incomplete information on the prescription
- 11% of errors were due to timings of doses
- 18% of errors were due to dose/strength
"GPs work under extreme time pressure, so an effective computer system can help prevent errors.
Doctors are obliged to prescribe responsibly and safely. This is especially important in cases involving drugs with potentially serious side effects. Doctors are advised to double check dosage, especially when prescribing unfamiliar drugs. Doctors should not rely on pharmacists to pick up prescribing errors."
The team advises that pharmacists play a greater role in supporting GPs, improved use of computer systems and more focus on prescribing in GP training.
Written By Gratte Rutte